Rail historians raise $ 25,000 for space to restore trains and ultimately become an NJ museum

Historic trains from New Jersey’s past find a place to be slowly restored to their former glory. But first, this place needs some work.

Railroad historians have begun raising funds to equip a building in Boonton that would be where the United Railroad Historical Society plans to restore some of the 65 historic trains representing the history of the state’s railways.

This is a step on the path to New Jersey’s goal of having its own State Transportation Museum, a dream historians have pursued for 40 years.

At the end of last month, UHRS moved into a 6,600 square foot building in the small storage yard it has rented from NJ Transit since 2007 and which houses most of the company’s collection. For the first time in 37 years of history, the UHRS has an indoor space to work on its trains, instead of an outdoor space, said Kevin Phalon, president of the company.

The latest acquisition, a locomotive that circulated the streets of Hoboken before waterfront industries were replaced by condos and townhouses, was kept last year and will be on display at UHRS facilities. This year.

Now the building is just an empty shell and far from the restoration workshop the organization would like it to be. UHRS launched a fundraiser of $ 25,000 to equip the building with the basics – lights, paving, electricity, compressed air system, internet and security system, he said.

“This $ 25,000 would cover all the essentials on this list,” he said. “We would need more than that to continue building other parts of the store and purchasing store equipment. “

The building, recently vacated by a tenant, would allow UHRS members to work on the equipment inside as efficiently as possible, Phalon said. This will also allow them to stabilize the trains awaiting restoration against further deterioration of the elements.

A pair of Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 electric locomotives, which served NJ Transit after its formation, have been aesthetically restored by the United Railroad Historical Society in Boonton, as seen at an open house in 2014 Guided tours of the collection could resume this summer.

“These old trains are deteriorating every day they wait outside to be fixed,” he said. “A simple paint job can add decades to the life of any car or locomotive in this job. “

Donations can be made to URHS online at UHRS.org/donate or by mail at 104 Morris Ave. Boonton, NJ 07005. Future plans for the building include the acquisition of more shop machinery such as lathes, a milling machine and other metalworking tools to equip. a “soon to be a machine shop,” said Erik Stenzel, UHRS chief mechanic.

“We have gradually brought together the many pieces from our collection here,” said Phalon. “Currently there are 50 locomotives and cars in the yard. We expect 10 more pieces of equipment to finally return to Boonton in 2022. “

Part of the building will also be used for UHRS offices and as a “welcome base” to maintain the Hickory Creek, a restored New York Central Railroad observation car and the lounge car at Tavern # 43. , both artefacts from the rationalized train era of the 1940s and 1950s.

Rail historian gets interior home for vintage trains

The old Twentieth Century Limited Hickory Creek observation car leaves Poughkeepsie NY on one of the many fall foliage train trips the United Railroad Historical Society has taken this fall on tracks along the Hudson River. One of the group’s treasures is the restored Hickory Creek.

Both cars are part of the UHRS Hudson River Rail Tours which wrapped up fall foliage tours on the Hudson River last year that were so popular that the first set of trips sold out in 8 minutes online.

The ultimate goal of UHRS is to build a 50-acre transportation museum in the state, with an indoor exhibition building and education center and track so people can take the restored trains, a t -he declares. Such operating railway museums exist in other states, as close as Pennsylvania, which opened its State Railway Museum in 1975.

“We will never be able to reach this point without conserving the artifacts that we have,” he said. “That is why this restoration building in Boonton is not only beneficial, but necessary.”

A permanent museum of transportation in New Jersey has been an elusive goal, studied since 1980, but not achieved. The UHRS came close to this goal in 2005, when it found a 35-acre site in Phillipsburg. But this site was used for waterfront development instead.

“New Jersey missed that, and it shouldn’t be so,” Phalon said. “We have the history and we have the artifacts. We just need some space.

Meanwhile, the UHRS and other railway museums and historical societies have stocked old trains, many of which were donated by NJ Transit after replacing old equipment from previous railroads. The UHRS has done an impressive job, cosmetically restoring various locomotives and trains to their past splendor.

People could see them again this summer when the UHRS first opens its guided tours facility. In the past, he organized an open house in the fall.

“It is our top priority that the public can see and enjoy the trains here in Boonton,” said Phalon. “We’re so excited to finally be able to do it. We will sell tickets on our website once the dates are set. “

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Larry Higgs can be reached at [email protected].

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